There’s much to do in Istanbul beyond the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace and a cruise on the Bosphorus – things that everyone does. Lovely as they are, these are some of the most popular and known sites in the city, and you don’t need us to tell you about them. Instead, here are some things to do when you’re done with all the touristy stuff.
Shop at Arasta Bazaar
A big relief from the crushing crowds at Grand Bazaar is this small market near the Blue Mosque. With cobbled paths and boutique stores, this one is more of a European market. You can shop at leisure for t-shirts, tea, music, silver jewellery, curios and mementos. Go early, around 11 am, to avoid the rush.
Take the slow boat to Üsküdar
One of the unique experiences in Istanbul is to visit two continents within minutes. Dividing the city between Asia and Europe, the Bosphorus is its lifeline and a hub of activity as commuters cross over to either side daily for work and pleasure. The usual way to cross over is to take the sea bus that leaves every 10-15 minutes, but every now and then you can hop on to a smaller wooden boat that takes much longer to get to the Asian side.
You can sit outside, enjoying the sunshine and stunning views of the blue Bosphorus, as the boat slowly makes its way across. Once in Üsküdar, look out for the antique flea market, the Üsküdar Bit Pazari. Here you can get your hands on all sorts of treasures, from antique locks to statement necklaces.
Indulge in the national pastime
Turkish coffee may be more famous around the world, but the Turkish people actually drink tea much more than coffee. In fact, they drink it pretty much non-stop through the day. The pretty Tarihi Çınaraltı in Üsküdar is a waterfront teahouse that gives beautiful views of the Bosphorus and serves fabulous Turkish tea. It is also a great place to enjoy a typical local breakfast of cheese, and fruit, along with the tea!
Buy weird things
Snake oil, anyone? Ant eggs in a bottle? These and other whacky things are up for sale at stores in the Egyptian Bazaar, a place where locals do their shopping). In Istanbul, shopping can be quite an adventure! (Tip: This is also a good place to shop for local specialities like Turkish delight, nuts and spices at reasonable prices.)
For some of the best chocolate and coffee in town, check out Kahve Dunyasi, a local chain of cafes that sells handmade chocolates in a wide range of flavours. There’s an outlet right outside Grand Bazaar, where you can sit with your coffee and chocolate, and watch the world go by.
Words: Kalyani Prasher